Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Student Reflection

by Jacqui Kukulski

That wasn’t the earth opening up and swallowing me up was it? I certainly hope not, but sometimes it looks like that happens to some people. I was helping translate for a man the other day and he was supposed to have a follow up appointment a long time ago, but he understood that he would get a letter in the mail telling him when his next appointment was. He had many problems and there was a bit of confusion but what was the saddest part was there wouldn’t have been any confusion if he hadn’t been forgotten. I haven’t been at Frances Nelson long enough to witness a lot of this, but the feeling I get is that this is all too common.

Patients don’t always get appointments. The schedule fills up faster than the patients can get an appointment. Patients miss appointments or never make a follow up. It was suggested to this man that he needs to take responsibility for himself, and make sure he gets the appointments he needs. But what about his side of it? He doesn’t speak English. He probably hasn’t grown up with an American’s mentality of going to the doctor. We explain so often that you need to see an eye doctor and a dentist too, but as I was growing up, we always went. We never missed a year. It’s hard for me to understand why you wouldn’t go to a dentist, but that’s because I grew up knowing that you go to the dentist at least once a year. This patient probably immigrated here and we should be happy that he got himself to a doctor in the first place.

The saddest story I’ve heard is about a woman who was having a bad reaction to a medication, and no one caught that it was from the medication for over two years. No one, save a very compassionate translator. Without this translator, this woman wouldn’t have gotten an appointment, and no one would have been alerted to the fact that the reaction could be from some medication.

I only deal with the Spanish speaking patients, so I don’t know if these instances occur with the English speaking patients. Also, I can only assume that this is the same that happens at every clinic. There must people who simply fall through the cracks, I hope it’s not true. But now, this raises another question: why are they falling through the cracks? Is it because they don’t have insurance? Is it because they speak Spanish? Is it because the doctors aren’t taking the time to listen to their patients?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I also don’t think there’s a simple answer. There never seems to be a simple answer to something so complicated. When I first started working at Frances Nelson, I saw doctors as someone who was nice, helped people and prescribed medicine. Now, having seen the system from another side, the non-patient side, I realize that healthcare needs to be so much more than that. It needs to take care of the whole person and it needs to be the one person or group of people that still watch out for you.

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